Opinion writer
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said the conservative movement known as the "alt-right" was an "emerging racist ideology." (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

#NeverTrump Republicans knew even a minimally competent Democrat could destroy Donald Trump in the general election. By using his own words and associations, a picture — accurate and deserved — of an unhinged racist and misogynist would emerge. Today, Hillary Clinton painted the picture for Americans, reiterating what the Republican National Committee dullards who backed him failed to appreciate: No one like Trump should become president of the United States.

She began, “From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia. He’s taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America’s two major political parties. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.” She then proceeded to make an airtight case — starting with condemnation for his stereotyping of African Americans:

“Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing. No homes. No ownership.

Crime at levels nobody has seen. Right now … you walk down the street, you get shot.”

Those are his words. …

Donald Trump misses so much.

He doesn’t see the success of black leaders in every field. The vibrancy of black-owned businesses, the strength of the black church. He doesn’t see the excellence of historically black colleges and universities or the pride of black parents watching their children thrive. … He certainly doesn’t have any solutions to take on the reality of systemic racism and create more equity and opportunity in communities of color. It takes a lot of nerve to ask people he’s ignored and mistreated for decades, “What do you have to lose?” The answer is everything!

This was entirely accurate. It is inexcusable that a presidential campaign would present — not ad-libbed, but in a speech fed into a teleprompter — such a biased and inaccurate view of African Americans. The speech continued, “A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far reaches of the Internet, should never run our government or command our military. If he doesn’t respect all Americans, how can he serve all Americans?”

Then came the laundry list to support her argument that “the hard truth is, there’s no other Donald Trump. This is it.” She described the suit against him for housing discrimination, his birtherism (“He promoted the racist lie that President Obama isn’t really an American citizen – part of a sustained effort to delegitimize America’s first black president”), his slurs against Mexicans, his attack on Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, use of anti-Semitic images and his lie that thousands of Muslims cheered 9-11.

Intimating that some of his crazier claims were actually racist (Sen. Ted Cruz’s father and the JFK assassination, Obama “founded ISIS”), she veered into the argument that we cannot have someone who, beyond racism, is, well, nuts. (“The last thing we need in the Situation Room is a loose cannon who can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction, and who buys so easily into racially-tinged rumors.”)

She then went full-throttle after his wacky, biased policies (the Muslim ban and the idiotic “extreme vetting”) and mocked his reliance on the National Enquirer. Next she skewered Stephen K. Bannon, reading provocative and racist headlines from the Breitbart website he ran. From there she explained the alt-right:

The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump Campaign represents a landmark achievement for the “Alt-Right.” A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party.

And, this is part of a broader story — the rising tide of hardline, right-wing nationalism around the world.

As she explained, what is different is that Trump is the nominee of a major party:

Of course there has always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, a lot of it rising from racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.

On David Duke’s radio show the other day, the mood was jubilant.

“We appear to have taken over the Republican Party,” one white supremacist said.

Duke laughed. There’s still more work to do, he said.

It was a devastating speech not only because it was accurate but because Republicans themselves could and should have delivered it long ago. Instead they spin, support, and excuse his rhetoric, making the accessories to this ghastly spectacle. She ended with a call to conscience for Republicans and the country:

This is a moment of reckoning for every Republican dismayed that the Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Trump. It’s a moment of reckoning for all of us who love our country and believe that America is better than this.

Twenty years ago, when Bob Dole accepted the Republican nomination, he pointed to the exits and told any racists in the party to get out.

The week after 9/11, George W. Bush went to a mosque and declared for everyone to hear that Muslims “love America just as much as I do.”

In 2008, John McCain told his own supporters they were wrong about the man he was trying to defeat. Senator McCain made sure they knew – Barack Obama is an American citizen and “a decent person.”

We need that kind of leadership again.

They should take her up on that, starting with congressional leaders.

This was plainly her best speech of the campaign, probably of her life. She delivered it in calm and well-modulated tones. It should leave Republicans mortified. What excuse is there for sticking with such a candidate, House Speaker Paul Ryan? How can you now support him, Sen. Marco Rubio? It’s enough to prompt conservatives of good conscience to reject the party that followed meekly along with Trump. Maybe a new party really is needed.